Keep our eyes, ears and minds open on our school his­tory

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

I WOULD like to ad­dress the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the school his­tory cur­ricu­lum by mak­ing these con­tro­ver­sial state­ments:

No study of his­tory can be truly ob­jec­tive as re­searchers and schol­ars are sub­jec­tive in their in­ter­pre­ta­tion of his­tor­i­cal data.

No his­to­rian can be com­pletely un­bi­ased in pre­sent­ing a per­spec­tive of his­tory as he or she comes with a par­tic­u­lar mind­set.

No school his­tory text­book writer can be ab­so­lutely bal­anced when he or she has to abide by the guide­lines de­ter­mined by Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry’s cur­ricu­lum de­vel­op­ment com­mit­tee.

No govern­ment can be truly egal­i­tar­ian, demo­cratic and fair as the cit­i­zenry is di­verse and peo­ple come from dif­fer­ent so­cio­cul­tural back­grounds and have mul­ti­far­i­ous needs.

No his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive of a na­tion can be com­plete as in writ­ing one, the his­to­rian has to se­lect from the huge bank of po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, sci­en­tific, tech­no­log­i­cal and so­cio­cul­tural de­vel­op­ments and the peo­ple that nav­i­gate them.

These con­sid­er­a­tions should be borne in mind be­fore one jumps to the con­clu­sion that one’s own in­ter­pre­ta­tion of his­tory is the right one, or for that mat­ter, one’s po­lit­i­cal views, past and cur­rent. The pol­i­tics of to­day will be­come po­lit­i­cal his­tory to­mor­row. In ret­ro­spect, his­to­ri­ans can be re­flec­tive and re­move a lot of the im­me­di­ate emo­tional con­text. How­ever, their analy­ses and in­ter­pre­ta­tion will still con­tain a fair amount of sub­jec­tiv­ity and am­bi­gu­ity.

So, what is a fair and bal­anced his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive for Malaya and Malaysia that will be ac­cept­able to the pro­tag­o­nists and an­tag­o­nists dab­bling in this con­tro­versy? Can they ad­dress their un­hap­pi­ness ra­tio­nally and un­ravel the is­sues in­volved with a clear con­science?

Let’s face it! We are all bi­ased and prej­u­diced. This is the na­ture of hu­man­ity and hu­man ex­is­tence as we han­dle life’s chal­lenges and grap­ple with the in­equal­i­ties we are born with. How com­pletely equal, fair and bal­anced we can be if we were ho­moge­nous. But for­tu­nately or un­for­tu­nately we are not and never will be.

How­ever, it’s the striv­ing to­wards bal­ance, fair­ness and jus­tice that drives us to be bet­ter than our fa­thers and fore­fa­thers in some as­pects of de­vel­op­ment.

It’s the mar­vel­lous ed­u­ca­tion and ex­po­sure we en­joy to­day that should make us more un­der­stand­ing, re­spect­ful and knowl­edge­able about the nar­ra­tives of our peo­ple. Fam­ily groups and com­mu­ni­ties have their own ge­nealo­gies, her­itage and lega­cies, which they are proud of. These con­trib­ute to the his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tives of the dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups that co­ex­ist har­mo­niously in Malaysia.

Let’s keep our eyes, ears and minds open. Let’s see, lis­ten and think more deeply. Let’s not brush aside the view­points of other peo­ple be­cause we are so sure we are right. Are we re­ally right or are we just be­ing right­eous?

The PCORE-UM His­tory Fo­rum themed “The Study of His­tory: Its Rel­e­vance and Sig­nif­i­cance” will ad­dress some of these is­sues. Among the top­ics and sub-top­ics to be de­lib­er­ated are:

Cre­at­ing a shared nar­ra­tive for na­tional har­mony His­tory and na­tion build­ing Goals and ob­jec­tives of school his­tory His­tory text books and sense of be­long­ing Sus­tain­ing iden­tity in his­tor­i­cal writ­ings

Among the dis­tin­guished speak­ers are Tan Sri Dr Rais Ya­tim, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor Datuk Dr Sham­sul Amri Ba­harud­din, Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim, Dr Lim Teck Ghee, Dr He­len Ting, Tunku Mu­nawirah Pu­tra, Dr Um­madevi Sup­piah and Dr Ran­jit Singh Malhi.

The one-day fo­rum will be held this Satur­day at Lec­ture Theatre A, Fac­ulty of Arts and So­cial Sci­ences, Univer­sity of Malaya. Regis­tra­tion is at 8.00am. Ad­mis­sion is free.

All are wel­come to par­tic­i­pate in this his­toric PCORE-UM His­tory Fo­rum where it is hoped that sub­stan­tive find­ings are drawn and bal­anced out­comes found.

The re­port and rec­om­men­da­tions will be sub­mit­ted to the rel­e­vant agen­cies and stake­hold­ers and a book will be pub­lished.

Datuk Hal­imah Mohd Said Pres­i­den­tAs­so­ci­a­tion of Voices of Peace, Con­science and Rea­son (PCORE)

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